There's been a surge in affordable phones and tablets of late, devices with fair feature sets in spite of their asking prices. The Asus MeMo Pad 7 is one such device; a 7-inch tablet that gives the likes of the Tesco Hudl a run for its money and is knocking on the door of Nexus 7 territory.
Asus hasn't gone all out in terms of screen resolution, though, but something had to give at this price point. We've been using the tablet for a week to see just how it shapes up. Has Asus got everything right?
After lifting the MeMo Pad 7 from its box it's clear that Asus has got all the basics down. The device - codename ME176CX, in that typical Asus off-the-factory-line format - is smaller than the Hudl, and although at 10mm thick the Asus isn't drastically thinner, perceptively it looks and feels it. The face dimensions are approximately 190 x 114mm, which accommodates the necessary bezel around the edges of the 7-inch screen.
The choice of materials is smart too: the front is entirely encased in glass with a single silver-colour rim connecting up to a plastic rear shell (our review unit is white, there are black, aqua blue, red and yellow options also available). There aren't any ugly seams, while all the connecting ports remain open but largely out of sight thanks to the subtle curved edge.
That means the microSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack and mini USB are all well hidden, but so are the power and volume buttons - which we feel are only possible to use with a two handed grip because of the device's shape.
It all weighs 295g which isn't a great deal really. Suitable weight for a suitable tablet.
The Asus MeMo Pad 7 runs Google's Android operating system, and it's the latest version too (4.4.2, better known as KitKat). That means access to lots of apps, games, your email, web browsing and all the usual touch-screen antics you would expect from a tablet. Much like an enlarged phone minus the calling features and there's no roaming possibilities either - this is a Wi-Fi only tablet.
Asus has dressed the operating system with its own ZenUI user interface, but it has minimal impact. If you've used Android before then you'll know your way around. Or if you've used any current touchscreen system you'll feel at home in little time.
There is some Asus own software, which appears in its own folder by default when first loading the tablet, but none of it is forced upon you and some of the options are genuinely useful. Take the Splendid colour correction and enhancement as one example: great for shifting between cool and warm tones and switching on a vivid playback mode.
For your own apps the Intel Atom Z3745 processor under the hood delivers up to 1.86Ghz and is paired with 1GB of RAM. If all those numbers are meaningless to you then, fear not, all you need to know is that the MeMo Pad 7 will do most of what you ask of it. We loaded up Angry Birds Go! and it ran smoothly enough, while games such as Candy Crush Saga are no dramas at all. So if you want an at-home web browser and casual gaming machine that can also be used to thumb through email and playback videos we have no major qualms with this Asus's ability.
As much as we admired the material choices used in the construction at this price point, the glass coating is persistently reflective. Even in everyday indoor use there's a permanent reflection staring back; take the tablet outdoors and it's not good enough in our view.
The screen resolution is 1280 x 800 pixels, which is behind the Tesco Hudl and a long way behind the second-gen Nexus 7. But figures on a spec sheet are one thing and use is another - and we found the resolution to be ample enough, even if some of the icons lack the crispness compared to our 1920 x 1080 resolution smartphones of today.
READ: Tesco Hudl review
Brightness by default isn't astounding, meaning we typically opted for to boost the brightness to its maximum to get a preferable view - often just to counteract the degree of reflection from the glass.
However, Asus has got some other features right: the screen is an IPS panel, which means it copes well from a variety of viewing angles. Unlike cheap PCs that need to be viewed front-on for a manageable view, the MeMo Pad 7 can be titled through oblique angles and still maintain necessary contrast. Not even most Chromebooks are able to do that.
With that brightness ramped up to max, which is how we feel most users will likely use the tablet, we achieved around seven hours of use. That's not too bad in our book, although an extra couple of hours wouldn't go amiss given just how well some of the current Intel processors can last out for.
It's also worth noting that of the 16GB on-board storage we had under 11GB available from the off. You'll need this space for apps as they can't be run from a microSD card. However, the presence of the microSD card slot means you can load on a stack of content, such as movies, TV shows and music, at just a marginal additional cost.
As most tablets have these days, the MeMo Pad 7 also comes with a 5-megapixel camera. It takes photos, obviously, but they're not the kind of mind-blowing ones that some of the smartphone manufacturers are getting out of their top-spec smartphones. It's all about expectation: at £120 we wouldn't expect a flawless camera, but it does the job. And there's a small front-facing 2-megapixel one which is practical for using for Skype calls and the like.
In terms of sound Asus has opted for the odd position of mounting the speaker to the rear, but as the speaker is toward the bottom of the design we never covered it with a hand so the output was unaffected. The sound is loud enough from a tablet of this size, just don't expect booming bass unless you've got a decent pair of cans plugged into the headphone jack.
Overall the Asus MeMo Pad 7 is an accomplished and affordable 7-inch Wi-Fi only tablet, even if it fails to truly excite and get the blood pumping. But with the Tesco Hudl its main nemesis, it does a good job of standing up against the supermarket giant: the Asus is the better looking bit of kit.
However, and despite a decent angle of view from the screen, we find its reflective coating somewhat annoying, while the resolution isn't the best in class. Still, for £120 it's par for the course; if you demand more then look toward the latest Google Nexus 7 instead, assuming you have some extra cash to spend.
Choose from a variety of colour options, pop in a microSD card with lots of content, sit back and enjoy what the Asus MeMo Pad 7 is all about. It's not a luxury tablet, but it's an affordable one that runs well, looks decent and ticks all the necessary boxes.
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